Apparently, then, Bailey actually took the trouble of contacting the Crimson and explaining that they were not to use a personal pronoun whenever writing about, um, Bailey. The idea presumably being that, in the world according to Bailey, being described as either he or she is somehow, you know, oppressive. Oppressed by a pronoun! This, folks, is the kind of victim theater that is not only taken seriously nowadays at places like Harvard – it is nurtured, exalted, rewarded. Bailey, after all, got hired by the world’s (supposedly) greatest university, in an exceedingly tough job market, presumably ahead of a lot of other people. What little information is available about Bailey online does not overly impress. But one thing Bailey is obviously terrific at is knowing exactly where the cutting-edge of this whole preposterous victim thing lies.
From one perspective, of course, this story is simply funny – a diverting source of mirth in difficult times. From another perspective – in fact, from several other perspectives – it’s pathetic, disgusting, enraging. Think about it: if you’ve sent your kid to Harvard, and he happens to be gay, and maybe he hits a bump on the road of life as a result of which he’s advised to consult the BGLTQ student life office, do you want Bailey to be the one behind the desk giving him advice about how to move forward on the road to mature, self-disciplined, responsible adulthood? There are plenty of people in the world, gay and otherwise, who are real victims. Countries like Iran execute people for being gay. But at places like Harvard, gay students – who, just by virtue of being there, are by any definition highly privileged – are not encouraged to think about ways in which they might use their own privilege to help the very real victims of genuinely oppressive regimes (on the contrary, they are generally taught to be good multiculturalists who use extreme caution in judging “other cultures”). Rather, they are encouraged to cultivate their own sense of victimhood – to be self-absorbed, to navel-gaze, to discover victimization in places where no reasonable person would see it.
Aside from being inane and outrageously arrogant, of course, the suggestion that other people must alter their use of pronouns in order to avoid offending you is pretty ignorant. Does Harvard’s newest employee realize that it is, quite simply, impossible to de-gender many, if not most, of the major languages of the world? In English Bailey’s title is director; in French would it be directeur or directrice? In quiring minds want to know.
I don’t mean to single out Bailey. This story just happens to highlight a sickness that has infected, to various degrees, virtually all American institutions of higher education. The situation tends to be especially bad at the most historically distinguished ones, and everywhere you turn it seems only to be getting worse. I just finished writing, as I say, a book that examines the lengths to which people in academia today are willing to go to top one another in the victimhood sweepstakes – yet somehow I never even ran across this business about rejecting gender pronouns. The point being that every time you turn around, somebody very fortunate and privileged seems to have come up with yet another ingenious new way of claiming to be oppressed and of guilt-tripping others into taking seriously their ludicrous demands for sensitivity. The whole shebang, of course, is absurd. It’s grotesque. And, more to the point, it could not be more brilliantly designed to quash the very concept of civilized, responsible adulthood – the attainment of which, once upon a time, was the ultimate goal of higher education.
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